Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Why Is Gau Mata And Why Not Take It Overboard

Cow has suddenly caught the fancy of Govt bodies in India -- first the beef ban and now to take things to a completely different level, a Rajasthan Govt minister has opened a cow urine refinery. I am not sure what exactly the refinery would do and what all products would be distilled out of it.

Why this fascination with Gau Maata and why Gau is Maata anyway ? Has anyone thought about it before jumping on to the fanaticism bandwagon.

As far I have read Indian Philosophy, there is no religious dogma around Cow. The point and the precise point is utility of cow in an agrarian society. I have grown up in a farmer family and have seen closely, first hand, how cow adds value to an agrarian society, which is what India was in formative years of civilization. Like every other civilization in its beginnings.

My core belief is that most traditions can be traced back to a logical reasoning. For example -- the absurd one of not allowing new born infants and their mothers to leave the room for some 30-40 days after birth. My mother, who delivered me at home told me a possible rationale -- in old days, sterile environments were difficult to achieve in villages and hence the one room which was sterilized by burning neem leaves, hawan etc and other measures was sanctuary for the new born and her still fragile mother. The logic was to keep her in that relatively sterile room. People forgot the logic and even today many just keep the tradition. I have heard the Chinese don't even allow the mother to shower for some 30-40 days after birth. There might be some rationale considering cold climate in Northern China, who knows.

Back to Cow.

We grew up drinking Cow's milk. Cow's dung was used to make dung cakes which is the only fuel. Cow's dung is also used to "polish" mud floors of the houses. Cow's kids, if male, helps pull your plough through the fields and if female, would give you milk and would breed more cows for you. Food, Fuel and Farm Labor (It was the only mechanization when there were no tractors and combines): Cow was the centre of any agrarian society and even today is to some extent -- at least for food and for fuel to some extent. Oxes would also pull the carts and would irrigate the field by pulling water from wells. This centrality of Cow's utility to the agrarian society is what made Gau Maata. Farmer would call Gau maata because farmer is grateful for her massive contributions in sustaining life. Its easy to understand the reasoning behind it. And since we worship everything we are grateful to -- Gods for example -- that's why we probably started worshipping Cow.

Worshipping gets linked to religion and that then probably linked Gau Maata to Hinduism while there is nothing religious to it. Its purely utilitarian.

So, many of us need to understand the utility principle behind Gau Maata idea rather than being religious/dogmatic about it. In today's time, the idea has limited relevance. So a lot of people need to cool their heels on this.